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Completed project

Outsourcing of Scandinavian welfare societies?

Consequences of private and nonprofit service provision for active citizenship

Project period 2012 - 2016
Project employer Norges forskningsråd
Project nr. 413.098

This project is designed to improve our understanding of how welfare politics; allocation of service contracts to public, private and nonprofit providers; and citizen roles are linked, by addressing the following research questions:


  • Under what circumstances are active citizenship roles as opposed to narrower consumerist roles likely to occur?

  • Does it make a difference if the providers belong to the public, private or the nonprofit sector?

  • Are there differences between welfare services where there is broad party consensus about the need to curb costs, as opposed to services where there is competition about improvement and expansion between the parties?

  • Do the institutional logics by which welfare service contracts are allocated to providers and expectations coordinated matter, i.e. is there a shift from government to governance?

The project will strengthen stakeholders' critical awareness of consequences of outsourcing and user choice for active citizenship.

Several recent policy documents point out that welfare services in a traditional sense are not sufficient to meet demanding challenges to the Scandinavian welfare models sustainability. New types of relations between the public purchasers of welfare services and the providers often involve different forms of quasi-markets, open tenders, frame agreements, or user choice. However, the Scandinavian countries have chosen different trajectories: Denmark has for a long time politically favoured non-profit welfare provision; Sweden has opened up for strong growth in for-profit provision; while Norway prefers public provision as long as there is sufficient capacity, in particular in compulsory education and essential health services.This means the Scandinavian countries are excellent cases for comparative studies.

To empirically analyse effects of changes in allocation and coordination of contracts to welfare service providers, we use a concept of "active citizenship" that focuses on "choice" in the marketplace of welfare services, extended "responsibility" for individual carers, families and communities; and "participation" in service delivery, policymaking and governance (Newman and Tonkens).

However, governments promoting active citizenship rights may also use these collectivist struggles to coopt political claims and turn them into individualized responsibilities and thereby advance consumerism at the expense of voice and power. Active citizenship is a contested concept. This is why we need to combine macro data analysis of the mix of welfare providers and allocation and coordination of contracts, with micro case studies of municipalities that includes interviews with politicians, welfare administrators, care providers, users and recipients and their next of kin to observe potentially contradictory and contested effects of how welfare services are allocated, coordinated and provided


Jo Saglie Dr. polit. Research Professor +47 991 62 131 Send e-mail
Signe Bock Segaard PhD Senior Research Fellow +47 994 28 724 Send e-mail
Karl Henrik Sivesind Dr. polit. Research Professor +47 997 06 127 Send e-mail
Håkon Solbu Trætteberg PhD Senior Research Fellow +47 920 54 308 Send e-mail
Published Feb. 6, 2012 5:19 PM - Last modified Sep. 5, 2017 9:00 AM